The Namibian (Windhoek)

21 June 2012

Namibia Wins International Conservation Award

Namibia has won the 2012 Markhor Award for Outstanding Conservation Performance in recognition of its exceptional wildlife conservation programme.

The award is the brainchild of the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation.

The prize was jointly awarded to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Namibian Association of Community-Based Natural Resources Management Support Organisations (Nacso).

Through the award, the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation, "honours conservation projects that link human livelihoods with the conservation of biodiversity".

The award is given every two years at the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity, which was adopted in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 to which Namibia is a signatory.

Namibia's winning of the award is ascribed to its sustainable game management plan, "according to which game may be harvested for trophy hunting, live capture and sale and for distribution of meat", a statement issued by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Namibia said.

While there is increasing evidence that global and African wildlife is declining, Namibia has shown the opposite and has grown its wildlife exponentially in communal conservancy areas since independence.

"In the north-west Kunene Region, for example, Hartmann's Mountain Zebra numbers have grown from an estimated 1 000 in 1982 to around 27 000 today, and the population of the desert-adapted elephant has grown from around 150 to approximately 750 in the same period. Lions in Kunene have expanded in range and number from 20 in 1995 to an estimated 130 today, and Namibia has the world's largest black rhino population," WWF said.

The recovery of animals has been influenced by translocating large numbers of animals to communal conservancies, which was started in 1999. Through this programme, the Ministry of Environment has moved more than 8 300 head of game to conservancies.

Some of the wildlife moved include species such as black rhino, sable antelope, black faced impala and giraffe.

The director of WWF in Namibia, Chris Weaver, said Namibia's nomination for the award is proof that "sustainable use of wildlife has been a strong catalyst to the recovery of wildlife in communal areas of Namibia, as participating conservancies have been quick to recognise that wildlife is more valuable alive than poached. As a result, poaching has become socially unacceptable".

The International Council of Game and Wildlife Conservation said the introduction of communal conservancies in Namibia has brought about a "paradigm shift in community attitudes towards wildlife".

Communal conservancies in Namibia have grown from four in 1998 to 76 in 2012, covering almost 19 per cent of the country.

The income from trophy hunting in the conservancies is use to pay conservancy salaries and also places many of these organisations on a sound financial footing.

Total benefits - including income from employment, in-kind benefits, and cash - to communal conservancies between 1998 and 2010 totalled N$179,3 million.

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